The world unites through syster cities

Luanda at night, Angola – Image Bank

The North American political activist, Martin Luther King, said something like “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. Dalai Lama, once said that “if you treat people like brothers or sisters, they will act accordingly”. Thus, we are human beings, cities also are alive. They are born, grow. Some even die. And they can even be sisters or twins to other cities. “Sister Cities” or “Twin Cities” are those that share (or wish to share) the same vocation. They can be a reference to some aspect or suffer from similar social problems.

“They are concerned about the image of the city, administrators, and planners who draft proposals and projects capable of changing the appearance of the city, modifying its appearance greatly. Cities that changed the image fastest became models and they were quickly copied”, explains the merited researcher and professor at the Ceará Federal University (UFC), José Borzacchiello da Silva. For him, cities must seek a solution for their urban problems all over the world. “Initiatives of cities searching for defining a protocol for partnerships and bilateral cooperation are considered nowadays as an innovative and advanced form of reconciliation, in order to solve common problems and achieve solidary exchanges.”

Durban — Terrence Franck

Siblings discuss together

Paradiplomatic agreements between cities have taken place for centuries. However, the formalization of agreements gained strength in the XX century, especially in the period following the Second World War. In 1956, in the White House — during the office of President Eisenhower — the Sister Cities International organization was created, an organization for the purpose of being a hub of peace and prosperity through the creation of ties among people from different cities around the world. Fomenting these relations among people from different cultures and making it possible to celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships and thereby reduce the chances of new conflicts. The organization was effective in relieving global stresses and strains in the post-war period, especially in Western Europe. The Twin City model even helped to make China and the United States get closer, until then they were politically polarized, beginning in the 1970s.

Nowadays, the organization continues strengthening a network of sister cities in its network through its programs. “Intelligent cities do not correlate with poverty and social inequality. And the Sister Cities network is founded on the presupposition of cooperation”, assures Borzacchielo. “The recognition of common problems exceeded the niche of global cities and changed the policy of cooperation and exchange among cities of different sizes, already reaching metropolises, medium and small sized cities”, he said. Due to the support from the United States government, donations from volunteers through the Internet, and financial grants from large institutions, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Sister Cities International entity has dedicated itself to making increased partnerships in Africa, Southeastern and Eastern Asia, and also in Latin America.

São Paulo _ Nicolas de Camaret

Siblings share experiences

Researchers on urban issues from various universities around the world believe that the formation of networks of cities provide effective answers to complex situations and great uncertainty, notwithstanding the level of formalization. “Paradiplomacy is a trend that is not limited to first-world countries, but also it is strongly present in emerging countries and even in underdeveloped nations”, that is what Nelson Bessa said, an economist, who is the coordinator of monetary subjects and international finances in the International Subjects in the Treasury Ministry. “Besides the protocol aspects, defined agreements among different countries seeking to generally promote exportations, attract investments, improve tourist flow, capture resources, and technical and cultural exchange”.

Curitiba and Durban signed a twin city agreement in 2010. The administrators of the Brazilian city wanted to hear from the South Africans how their experience was in hosting the FIFA World Soccer Cup. Durban was one of the host cities for the 2010 World Cup; as Curitiba hosted the event in 2014. Because of that agreement, the African city sent a team to Brazil to discuss the subject in 2011. The creation of work positions, combating against the housing deficit and infrastructure projects, and transport were some of the subjects considered. The dialog allowed for the administrators in Curitiba to plan their actions better. “The social success and mobilization in the country depend on the involvement level of different social participants in the mobilization process of the cities. The exchange, articulation, shared experiences, and the arising partnerships will guarantee greater and better engagement among the teams from distinct cities”, defends Borzacchielo.

The internet and other new communication network technologies have become more complex than ever before. In spite of increased usage of on-line communication tools, face-to-face meetings and personal relationships developed through sister cities are still vital and, in some cases, irreplaceable.

Multilateral forums, such as the UN conferences and diverse regional forums, that reunite the mayors of cities and governors of provinces/states, help to strengthen the articulation of the Paradiplomatic relations on a global scale of cities. For this reason, large international organizations, such as the World Bank, have looked carefully at the Paradiplomatic agreements made by the cities. “The capture of resources at international organisms enables not only to attenuate the constraint on municipal budgets and anticipate the fulfillment of investments that otherwise could take years to attain, such as also the provision of technical support and best practices for enhancing the formulation, execution, and evaluation of government projects and policies”, argues Nelson Bessa.

It is difficult to quantify the number of twin cities, as many of them make simultaneous partnerships with various cities. Twin cities can sign cooperative different agreements of mutual cooperation with different partners. In 2011, Lagos in Nigeria, and Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, signed a twin city agreement. Uberaba, also in the state of Minas Gerais and the city of Nampula, in Mozambique became sister cities in 2013. In 2014 was the chance for Rio de Janeiro and Casablanca, in Morocco to become sister cities. The common denominator in these agreements, besides the cultural exchange and the quest for common urban problems, there is also the possibility for fomenting economic relations between the cities.

Curitiba _ Carle Cadu

Financial autonomy of cities and what the Brazilian law states

Brazilian legislation enables the sub-national entities of the federation, including municipalities to capture external resources by way of contracting funding from international organisms by the Federal Union granting endorsement. In order to get approval for this, states and municipalities must comply with a series of requirements and utilize a credit transaction after getting properly approved credit from federal bodies. That is required because, in the case of default payment, the Federal Union is obliged to cover the payment of the service for the debt to the international creditor.

In order to establish his own autonomy in capturing foreign resources, the economist Nelson Bessa says that municipalities must demonstrate that their finances are in order and possess the institutional capacity for contracting resources and managing projects funded by such loans. He is part of the Brazilian Treasury Ministry team and reminds us “Therefore, the municipality must provide a specific well-structured and professionalized area in its administration, capable of maintaining an appropriate coordination of diverse facets for managing the funded programs by external resources, ranging from its formulation, implementation, and evaluation”.

It is worthwhile to remember that the results from independent evaluations of projects, which have already been evaluated and are already implemented and they count on financial support from international cooperative resources can be used for getting endorsements for new requests for resources.